Prof. A. G. Paulraj

Tamil Nadu-born scientist, Arogyaswami Joseph Paulraj, has become the first Indian (NRI) to be awarded the Marconi Society Prize-2014, widely considered to be the equivalent to the Nobel Prize for the technology industry.

The award recognises his pioneering work on developing wireless technology to transmit and receive data at high speeds. Paulraj is credited with invention and advancement of Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) technology, a key enabler of WiFi and 4G mobile systems.

Sixty-nine-year-old Paulraj is Emeritus Professor at the Stanford University and served for 25 years in the Indian Navy. He has also received the Padma Bhusan in 2010.

His idea for using multiple antennas at both the transmitting and receiving stations – which is at the heart of the current high speed WiFi and 4G mobile systems – has revolutionised high speed wireless delivery of multimedia services for billions of people, said the Marconi Society in a release said.

“Paul has made profound contributions to wireless technology, and the resulting benefit to mankind is indisputable. Every WiFi router and 4G phone today uses MIMO technology pioneered by him,” chairman of the Marconi Society Professor Sir David Payne said in a statement.

By winning the award, Paulraj joins a very select group of top information technology (IT) pioneers such as Tim Berners-Lee (World Wide Web), Vint Cerf (Internet), Larry Page (Google Search), Marty Hellman (Public Key Cryptography) and Martin Cooper (Cell Phone).

Before Paulraj migrated to the US in the early 1990s, he was well known for pioneering the development of sonars for the Navy, which detect objects under water by emitting sound pulses and detecting their return. Paulraj is also the founding director of three major labs – Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR), Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Bangalore and the Central Research Labs (CRL) of Bharat Electronics.

After moving to Stanford University he built the world’s leading research group in MIMO, and founded two landmark companies in the US Silicon Valley to develop MIMO wireless systems. While global chip maker Intel acquired one company for an unspecified amount in 2003, Broadcom Corporation bought another one later.

Paulraj has also been a strong proponent for reviving India’s telecom technology manufacturing industry noting the high cost to the nation for its near total dependence on imports.

Named after Nobel laureate Guglielmo Marconi, who invented radio, and set up in 1974 by his daughter Gioia Marconi Braga through an endowment, the Marconi Society annually awards an outstanding individual whose scope of work and influence emulate the principle of “creativity in service to humanity” that inspired Marconi.

The Marconi Prize comes three years after Paulraj was honoured with the other major telecom technology award – the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal for his work on theoretical foundations of MIMO. The prestigious Marconi prize includes $100,000 honourarium and a sculpture. Its honourees become Marconi Fellows.

[Based on news appeared in – The Hindu, Business Standard, TOI]